When residents gather along the Bexley Independence Day celebration parade route Monday, July 4, grand marshal Ken Grace will be there to greet them.

When residents gather along the Bexley Independence Day celebration parade route Monday, July 4, grand marshal Ken Grace will be there to greet them.

The Bexley Celebrations Association, which sponsors the local Fourth of July events, selected Grace not only as this year's grand marshal, but will also recognize him as the 2016 Citizen of the Year.

"I was quite stunned when I received the call from Mayor (Ben) Kessler," Grace said. "It is quite an honor."

Grace stood out because of his involvement with the Developmental Assets Resource Network, a local organization that helps Bexley students and families in need, said Nicole Kelly, a BCA representative who is heading up the Independence Day morning activities.

"He has headed up one of the most successful initiatives that DARN has done," she said. "He has headed up the bicycle repair and donation area of DARN."

With the help of Bexley Middle School eighth-grade students, Bexley police, members of his church (Bexley United Methodist Church) and other volunteers, Grace refurbishes donated bicycles that DARN in turn distributes to students.

"I'm in my sixth year doing it. The first year, I started out with only five bikes," he said. "I have a feeling next year, I'll be looking forward to doing my 500th bike."

Grace receives donated bicycles from a variety of sources, including drop-offs at his house.

"I have a sign out front that says, 'Donate Bikes Here,' " he said. "That's how people started to notice."

In his letter nominating Grace for Citizen of the Year, Chevy Seidel, a Bexley Middle School eighth-grade language and literature teacher, said Grace helps teach students the importance of community service.

"Ken's ideas and efforts have helped dozens upon dozens of Bexley Middle School students to focus their efforts on learning a little bit about bike repair, but learning even more about what it means to be a caring and productive citizen," Seidel wrote.

"The bike project has opened up horizons for students in need -- offering avenues to transportation, productive activities, learning, pool and play," Amy Thompson wrote on behalf of the DARN board.

A native of Grandview Heights, Grace and his wife, Terri, the school nurse at Maryland Avenue Elementary School, have lived in Bexley for 12 years. They have two teenage daughters who attend Bexley schools.

Grace said one of the things he enjoys most about living Bexley is the community spirit.

"We really love the community because it's very friendly, one of the friendliest large-city communities," he said.

When he's not repairing bicycles, Grace works as a part-time administrator with Columbus Public Health. He previously retired as an administrator with the Ohio Department of Health, where he worked to expand Medicaid coverage for children.

Grace said his passion for helping youth is why he continues his work in bringing new life to old bicycles so that children use them for fitness and recreation.

"Anymore, I'm into showing people how to fix bikes, rather than fixing them myself," he said.

"It's a perfect relationship for an adult to teach a child how to help out."

Anyone who would like to donate bicycles may do so by contacting DARN at Darncares.org.